A few weeks after Izzy was born I was handed a little insight on this topic. Just a touch, but it sent me barreling in the right direction. It was an article (I'll have to scan it into my computer because I think I still have it somewhere, because I can't find it archived ANYWHERE- it was from Mothering and would have been pre-July 2006) called "Baby With the Bathwater." In the article the author outlined the fact that, while personal care products fall under the pervue of the FDA, the agency doesn't do much to regulate them. At this time there are only 11 ingredients that are banned for use in personal care products, and little testing is done to ensure that even these few regulations are stuck to. Furthermore, many baby products contain petroleum bi-products (which are flammable and carcinogenic), formaldehyde (carcinogenic), and various other substances that are known to have reactions ranging from causing cancer to causing severe skin irritation. The article refers you to the Environmental Working Group's website and to their cosmetics database to find information on the product that you already use, and to find safe products.
I was floored. Most of the product I had purchased for my child scored 5 and above (out of 10, 10 being the most dangerous) and one (probably the lotion or oil) scored an 8. I was not okay with this. So I trashed the stuff I had bought and began the process of finding something better. It wasn't exactly brain surgery, but I hadn't discovered the health food store yet and "natural" products were just beginning to become popular. You couldn't yet find them easily at Target or Rite Aid. I ended up with Burt's Bees baby wash and cold pressed grapeseed oil (like the food kind) for oil/lotion. I wasn't 100% happy, but it was a start.
I did notice, though, that once I switched all the skin issues Izzy had had immediately cleared up. She had mild cradle cap and blotchy, bumpy, dry skin before. After I switched her cradle cap cleared up (after one good "scrubbing" with a baby brush and some olive oil) and her skin became, well, baby smooth.
My product use has evolved, naturally, as any aspect of parenting does. I didn't like the Burt's Bees (and it's score isn't that great, either). So I switched to California Baby unscented hair and body wash, which I could buy at Target (and still use it on both kids). For Oliver I used a vegetable based baby oil (basically an oil blend with a little vitamin E in it for shelf stability) at first, but it didn't work any better than the food oil (and was more expensive). I never loved the grapeseed or olive oil, though, because if any oil got onto their clothes it would stain and smell like rancid oil. I used one bottle of California Baby unscented lotion, but I didn't love it either. I've finally settled on cold pressed virgin coconut oil (which is what I use on myself, as well). But I don't need to moisturize them very often because I only bath them when it's needed, no more than twice a week, and because I don't use a super drying soap on them.
This is one of those issues, though, where you have to read the information and asses it for yourself. There are many people who say that the levels of harmful chemicals found in these products are lower than what is found in the natural environment, therefore they can't be dangerous. The FDA and personal care industry have done studies on most of these substances and claim that they are safe.
My counter argument to that is this- yes, perhaps the level of formaldehyde in the baby lotion is low enough to be safe. But lotion gets absorbed into the bloodstream, along with all the chemicals in it. And when you take the lotion and you add the baby wash, the baby oil, the commercially produced wipes, the jarred baby food, the diapers (they have chemicals in them, too), the formula (and the can it comes in), the water used to make the formula (whether bottled or tap), the plastic toys and plastic bottles, the synthetic clothing and blankets, the carpet or laminate floor the baby is playing on, the cleaners used to clean that floor, the mattress the baby sleeps on, the detergent his clothes and bedding are washed in, the deodorizing sprays and candles his mom uses to cover up the diaper smell... you see where I'm going. All of these products contain chemicals that may enter the baby's blood stream and/or respiratory system. Some may be flushed out through various processes, but at least some build up in the body. In the last 50 years, during which time all the products I list above were either introduced or have grown in popularity, the rates of cancer, heart disease, asthma, food allergys, ADHD, autism spectrum, Alzheimer's and various other degenerative diseases have gone up at alarming rates. The more I read and the more I think, the more I'm beginning to feel this is not a coincidence.
What do you think?